The US banking establishment has been at war with the post office since at least 1910, when the Postal Savings Bank Act established a public savings alternative to a private banking system that had crashed the economy in the Bank Panic of 1907. The American Bankers Association was quick to respond, forming a Special Committee on Postal Savings Legislation to block any extension of the new service. According to a September 2017 article in The Journal of Social History titled “‘Banks of the People’: The Life and Death of the US Postal Savings System’: The Life and Death of the US Postal Savings System,” the banking fraternity would maintain its enmity toward the government savings bank for the next 50 years.
As far back as the late 19th century, support for postal savings had united a nationwide coalition of workers and farmers who believed that government policy should prioritize their welfare over private business interests. Advocates noted that most of the civilized nations of the world maintained postal savings banks, providing depositors with a safe haven against repeated financial panics and bank failures. Today, postal banks that are wholly or majority owned by the government are still run successfully not just in developing countries but in France, Switzerland, Israel, Korea, India, New Zealand, Japan, China, and other industrialized nations.
The US Postal Savings System came into its own during the banking crisis of the early 1930s, when it became the national alternative to a private banking system that people could not trust. Demands increased to expand its services to include affordable loans. Alarmed bankers called it the “Postal Savings Menace” and warned that it could result in the destruction of the entire private banking system.
But rather than expanding the Postal Savings System, the response of President Franklin Roosevelt…